County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday the administration will not defend a suit brought against the county and the Board of Elections supervisors on Monday.
The suit, filed by David P. Maier of Elkridge and Louis M. Pope of Laurel, asks that the Circuit Court declare the most recent County Council redistricting constitutionally defective and invalid.
Attorney Thomas E. Lloyd visited Ecker in his office Monday to tell him the county would be named a co-defendant in the suit.
"I told him I am not going to defend the suit," Ecker said. "I'm going to side with him. I agree with the suit. If the council wants to defend it, that's up to them."
At issue is whether Ecker has a role in council redistricting and whether redistricting can be done by a council resolution rather than a bill.
When districts were first drawn in 1986, J. Hugh Nichols, who was then the county executive, returned the bill unsigned. He said he believed the districting law, silent onthe executive's role, did not intend for the executive to play a part.
Ecker disagrees. When the council began its redistricting, he sought to be included in the process. After he was rebuffed, he sent the council a redistricting map of his own. His map was embraced by Republicans and condemned by Democrats.
Democrats, meanwhile, pushedthrough a plan of their own that was adopted by a 3-2 vote of the council along party lines. After Ecker vetoed the bill, the council voted along party lines to pass a resolution creating district lines identical to those in the vetoed bill. Bills may be vetoed, but resolutions may not.
The county's three-member elections board voted, 2-1,along party lines, in January to accept the council resolution.
The council resolution is not without precedent. In 1985, the council passed a districting resolution identical to the districting bill it had enacted a month earlier. The purpose then was to keep the bill from being petitioned to referendum and put on the ballot that fall. Bills may be petitioned, but resolutions may not.
The council was wrong in 1986 and it is wrong now, Lloyd says. He says in the suit thata majority of the council clearly intended the 1991 resolution to bean act that would repeal existing law.
Although County Solicitor Barbara M. Cook represents both the council and the administration, it is unlikely the council would ask her to defend the suit since she issued an opinion last year saying districting should be done by billrather than resolution.
The council had relied on advice from former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti in preparing its resolution. Council chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, could not be reached for comment on whether the council would ask Civiletti to defend the suit.